Thunderdome 2015: Rocky Mountain Gun Owners vs. everyone

“Thunderdome 2015” is The Colorado Independent’s wrap-up series on the 2015 legislative season. For a series overview, check out “Thunderdome 2015: 120 days under the gold dome.”

In mid-April, bipartisan members of a House committee shot down six bills meant to thin gun-safety laws in Colorado. It was an oddly subdued twelve-hour affair that stretched past midnight.

Gone were the impassioned gun-rights supporters that packed the Capitol in 2013 when a suite of gun-control laws were proposed and then passed by majority Democrats responding to the mass murders in Newtown, Connecticut, and in Aurora, just a few miles from the Capitol in Denver.

This year’s bills were aimed at repealing background checks for gun purchases, restrictions on carrying firearms and a ban on high-capacity magazines. The committee also heard a bill that sought to open schools to armed staff and visitors.

At the back of the room stood lobbyists for hard-charging “no compromise” local gun-politics group Rocky Mountain Gun Owners. The group’s talking points and positions and its slate of experts shaped testimony in favor of the bills.

Later, it came out, RMGO, as the group is known, opposed the libertarian pro-gun Independence Institute, which sought a compromise that would have moved a state ban on ammunition magazines up from 16 rounds to 31 rounds. That would mean 30-round magazines would be legal in Colorado again.

RMGO wouldn’t stand for such a thing on principle, arguing that any ammunition limit would be an equally unconstitutional infringement on fundamental rights.

“We don’t support any limits. That would be just switching to some other arbitrary amount,” said RMGO’s James Bardwell.

Soon after the vote, the right and the far-right went to war.

RMGO Executive Director Dudley Brown said the Independence Institute’s gun-policy guy Dave Kopel, who argued in favor of the mag-ban compromise, was part of a sleeper cell for national gun-control advocate Michael Bloomberg. Independence Institute President Jon Caldara called Brown a bully and a terrible advocate for anyone but himself.

“We’ll take one of Dudley’s suggestions,” Caldara wrote in a op-ed reprinted in newspapers around the state. “We will go after the real ‘anti-gunners.’ That’s why we are standing up to Dudley Brown. In 19 years, Dudley has raised millions of dollars from Colorado gun owners, and has never passed a pro-gun bill in the state Legislature.”

The 16-round mag-ban remains and the window to repeal it has grown narrower.

But what a show!


Read “Thunderdome 2015: 120 days under the gold dome,” for the rest of the series. 

Photo Credit: Peretz Partensky, Creative Commons, Flickr.